Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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The Sussex Diarists.
manners of Sussex people in their day, drew the following lively picture of the style in which our forefathers lived 200 years ago:—
" They dined at one or two o'clock, and many now do the same ; the only difference between them and us being, that what they called dinner we call luncheon. They sat down to a substantial meal at half-past seven or eight o'clock, and so do we; and this they called supper, but we call dinner. And as soon as supper was over the squire sat down at the shovel-board table, with his canine pets about him; and his tenants and retainers being called in, they smoked their pipes and quaffed they grogs—unless any of the party preferred instead potent home-brewed October ale—dis­cussing all the while the business as well as the passing events of the day. And this continued—varied, perhaps, with now and then a hunting song, in the chorus of which all heartily joined, or with a game played with cards —until it was time to prepare for bed, which, in well-regulated families, was seldom later than ten o'clock; while in another part of the hall, if it was spacious enough to admit of it, or if not in some adjoining apartment opening into the hall, sat the lady of the house, with her family, and any female friends that might be staying with her, busily engaged in spinning. Pianofortes,-now to be found in every tradesman's and farmer's house, were unknown even in the houses of many of the gentryin those days. The drone of the spinning-wheel was the music they most delighted in; and singing, or, as one of my church choir used to call it when he was in a grandilo­quent humour, 'the tuneful music of the vocal voice,' was all the melody that arrested the ear within the substantial walls of the Place House ; and profitable music it was, for all the linen of the house, body, bed and table, was, for the most part, thus supplied; the maid-servants, as well as the mistress of the house, her daughters and her friends, employing all their not otherwise occupied time in the same way. Tea was a repast not then much appreciated, even if it was known; the article itself—from a decoc­tion of which the meal took its name—being far too costly during the period under consideration to be much used in a common way, even in the houses of the better class; though it appears to have been occasionally indulged in at Hickstead; the price given for the article thus consumed being charged, according to the accounts, at 25s. and 30s. per pound. The family breakfasts at this date were upon the substantial Elizabethan scale. They consisted for the most part of hot meats, with a liberal supply of well-matured nut brown malt liquor. A hot beef steak, with no scant measure of two years' old ale, was no unusual thing for the lords and ladies of Queen Elizabeth's Court at breakfast to indulge in; and her most gracious Majesty did the same. And at Hickstead this meal was taken at a somewhat unusually early hour, so that by eight o'clock the squire was ready either for business or pleasure. If, during the hunting season—
'A southerly wind and a cloudy sky Proclaimed a hunting morn,'
the hounds were unkennelled, and every servant that could be spared from his customary duties in and about the house, each with a hunting pole in his hand, attended his master to the cover, and the welkin soon rang with the music of their tuneable voices; for game was far too plentiful in the Hickstead woods and hedgerows in those days to be long in being found. Or if the day was better adapted to shooting, the old Sussex spaniels, for
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